June 25, 2022

Budget/Candidates Night Minutes 2-21-2022


BUDGET DISCUSSION - CANDIDATES NIGHT 

Monday, February 21, 2022, 7 PM 

Meeting Minutes

This meeting will be conducted in compliance with Vermont Open Meeting Law with electronic participation. 

REMOTE INSTRUCTIONS: 

https://zoom.us/j/549799933; Youtube.com/catv810 – click “live now”; 

from phone dial: (415) 762-9988, Room ID: 549-799-933 followed by # 

Press # a second time , Press *9 to raise your hand for public comment;

To watch on TV go to Comcast channel 1085
 

School Board Members: Kevin Christie, Peter Merrill, Nancy Russell, Russell North,

Havah Armstrong-Walther, Olivia Merrill, Sydney Stillman

School Administrators Present: Tom DeBalsi, Cathy Newton, Roy Hathorn

Select Board Members: Dan Fraser, Joe Major, Dennis Brown, Lannie Collins, Kim Souza,

Michael Hoyt, Ally Tufenkjia

Town Administrators Present: Tracy Yarlott-Davis

 

Call to Order & Ground Rules Review by Chuck Wooster, Town Moderator 
Mr. Wooster called the meeting to order at 7:05 PM. He gave the upcoming meeting schedule, Saturday at 10 AM, Town and School Meetings with voting on Tuesday, March 1, 2022. A note from the Town Clerk, absentee ballots are available at that office. He further thanked the town employees and the CATV employees who are working to make the meeting happen.

He gave the purpose of the meeting, to hear the proposed budgets, town and school, and to hear from the candidates running for office. He asked attendees who have other questions to please hold them until Saturday’s meeting.

There will be no voting at this meeting and therefore Robert’s Rule of Order will not be followed.

The 35 minutes allotted for the budget can consist entirely of presentation, or can be split between  presentation and questions about specific budget items. For example, if the school takes 15 minutes to present  the budget the moderator will entertain up to 20 minutes of questions specific to that budget. These questions  will be answered by the presenter only. Questions of a general or policy nature will be postponed to the  general Q&A session.

Mr. Wooster noted that when two-thirds of the audience have left, the meeting would adjourn.

At 7:11 PM there were 73 attendees.

At 7:29 PM there were 76 attendees.

At 7:52, Mr. Wooster closed the meeting and asked attendees to log back on in one minute. He noted the meeting would reconvene in five minutes. This was in hopes of fixing the technical difficulties.

At 7:57 Mr. Wooster called the meeting back to order with 78 attendees.

At 8:23 there were 83 attendees.

At 8:49 there were 80 attendees.

At 9:45 there were 60 attendees.

At 10:08 there were 56 attendees.

School Budget by Russ North, School Board Member
Mr. North presented the school budget. He invited the attendees to join the Community Engagement Meeting on Wednesday February 23, 2022 to continue the budget discussion. All graphics and information are posted on the district website. The Annual Report is on the website and is out in hard copy available at Town Hall and the town libraries. This includes budget information from the 2002/03 school year to the present.

The voters will be asked to vote on four questions on the school ballot: elect school officers, to set the compensation for  board members, to vote for the budget for next year, and to approve the capital project fund.

The school budget of $43,687,968, is an increase of $2,721,285, which would be partially offset by other revenues, like tuition. The equalized pupil rate is $18,557.11. The Common Level of Appraisal decreased to 86.76 from 93.33 or a 6.57% decrease. The main drivers in the budget increase are salary and benefits, food service, facility maintenance, transportation, and other student services. This school budget would result in a decrease in the tax rate by 8.8 cents per 100.

He noted that the VT tax department has an online calculator to help determine your property taxes. He shared the website. Please keep in mind that there is also an income sensitivity factor.

The fourth question is to put $800,000 into a Capital Projects Reserve. This would set money aside for future capital projects. Both the Dothan Brook and Ottauquechee Schools need roof replacements. The 2020 estimated costs were at DBS $503,000 and at OQS $858,910.

Mr. North responded to questions from the attendees.

Mr. DeBalsi gave the enrollment numbers, which have greatly fluctuated over the pandemic years, January 18, 2022, 1754 students and last year there were 1715 students. There is a weighted formula that the state uses for funding purposes. He further noted that in September 2011, there were 1953 students.

FX Flinn reviewed the funding mechanism from the state for education spending. He further thanked Mr. DeBalsi for his work over his tenure.

Mr. Christie spoke about state funding. The educational fund has had its highest revenue increase and it’s possible that the legislators will vote to “buy down” the tax rate. This would make the decrease even greater.

Town Budget by Tracy Yarlott-Davis, Town Manager 
Mrs. Yarlott-Davis,Town Manager, presented the town budget. She thanked CATV employees for the meeting tonight and to the town staff members. Some employees are visible to the town community members and some are behind the scenes.

The current budget had a minimal increase over the previous year. The 2023 proposed budget is $1.0453 per $100 of value, or a 1.64% increase in the tax rate. The General Fund Budget of $ 18,253,944 does not include the Social Service Appropriations of $244,177. An approximate increase of 3.9% on non-tax revenue is projected, or about $ 105,334. The tax rate will be set in July once the grand list is finalized. Also on the ballot will be how the town spends its local option tax: four of the five active cemeteries and a new fire department ambulance. The budget will: add two staff members at the Hartford Fire Station, speed cart with messaging, public portals for documents and cemetery records, two public works highway operators, cyber security, public safety mechanic, data management and internal controls, and updated equipment for parks.

She shared ways to keep in touch, Hartford website, facebook page, and the listserv. She invited community members to review meetings via CATV and minutes on the town agenda center on the website for further information.

Mrs. Yarlott-Davis answered questions about the town budget. Several attendees asked specifics about the budget.

FX Flinn expressed his appreciation for the work Mrs. Yarlott-Davis and the staff have done with the budget and the position of the fund balance use.

Candidates to present themselves to the Citizens of the Town  
Mr. Wooster gave each candidate four minutes to introduce themselves.

Nancy Russell, 2 year School Board, has a great interest in preserving our great schools in Hartford, she serves on many other boards that relate to the school district.

Peter Merrill, 3 year School Board, has served on the board since his senior daughter was in kindergarten, he shared the dilemma the board had with the terms of two members.

Rocket, 2 year Selectboard, moved to Hartford from Addison Co. in August to attend VT Law School, came to VT in 2007, studied at Middlebury College, great way to get to know people and the community, important to get involved, welcomed specific questions to him at Rocket@VTLaw.edu.

Ally Tufenkjia, 2 year Selectboard, lived in Hartford for two years; served on board for one year; got involved in mutual aid efforts during the pandemic; artist/educator at The Hop; loves how engaged the community is; want to work on affordable housing and homelessness; climate action; equity, diversity, and inclusion; public safety; and economic development.

Mary Erdei, 3 year Selectboard, Wilder, cares about the community, teacher for 30 years, Peace Corps, values a chance to be heard- representation, wants to maintain the culture of VT and move our community forward.

Kim Souza, 3 year Selectboard, has served since 2018, feels a sense of dedication and care for the town, has enjoyed the Selectboard work, her experience will help move forward, twenty year business owner in town, feels the town has faced many challenges and wants to continue to help.

Chuck Wooster, Town and School Moderator, promised to improve his AV skills and hopes we won’t need it next year.

Laura R. Brooks, 1 of 5 year W Hartford Library Trustee, moved to VT from Boston in 2020, five children, lives close to the West Hartford Library, loves and uses the library regularly.

Douglas Eisler, 5 year term W Hartford Library, not in attendance.

Veronica Golden, 5 year term W Hartford Library, not in attendance.

 

Open Question and Answer Period (See guidelines below)
Mr. Wooster opened the Q & A period at 9:14. He welcomed questions to the candidates or to either of the budget presenters. Several attendees questioned the candidates. Budgetary questions were also addressed.

Close Meeting  
He reminded the body that the school meeting would begin at 10 AM on Saturday, February 26, 2022. There will not be time to address the candidates but any other business will be on the table for discussion. 

Mr. Wooster closed the meeting at 10:12 PM. He thanked the candidates for participating and the three CATV employees for their help.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Cherrie Torrey

School Board Recorder

 

 

Guidelines for the Question and Answer Period  

1. Budget presenter(s) and any School Board or Selectboard member who will be answering budget questions should join candidates  on the stage so that everyone will be easily seen and heard on the television broadcast.

2. Each questioner will have a 60 second time limit in which to pose a question directed toward one of these three categories: the town  budget, the school budget, or to a specific candidate. If the question asker does not specify, the Moderator chooses primary  responder. 

3. Budget Questions will be answered by budget presenters, up to 2 minutes for the primary answer.  

4. Candidate Questions will be answered by the candidate to whom the question is directed, who will have 60 seconds to answer.  Other candidates for the same seat will have 30 seconds to answer. 

5. Questioners will not be allowed a second question until everyone’s first question has been asked. 

6. After all members of the public have asked their first question, a second round may commence as needed.